HALLOWELL — Veteran councilor Phil Lindley talked about his experience and his opponent Kara Walker touted her fresh perspective to about 30 people during a candidates forum in the City Hall Auditorium Monday night.

Lindley, 66, is the executive director of the ConnectME Authority and has been a councilor for 15 years. Walker, 40, the director of the Central Maine Regional Resource Center in Lewiston, has never been elected to public office and said it was time for new ideas on the council.

Hallowell Mayor Mark Walker moderated the forum. Topics included the Water Street reconstruction, the increase in property taxes and the future of the city’s fire protection services. The Stevens Commons project is in the master plan review process, so the City Council said it could not be discussed at the forum.

“I want to help Hallowell grow by making sure all citizens are involved in the conversation about Hallowell’s future,” said Walker, who made sure to tell everyone in attendance that she is not related to the mayor. “I love Hallowell, and I want to make sure the city maintains its unique character as it faces many challenges.”

Lindley said the fire services and Stevens Commons issues have been around for as long as he’s been on the council, and he hopes there is a resolution soon.

“I think my 15 years of experience will be critical as we move forward,” Lindley said.

Two people very familiar to Hallowell are running unopposed for two other council seats. Former councilor Lynn Irish, who represented Ward 2 from 2014 to 2016, is running to fill the at-large seat being vacated by Alan Stearns. Stearns was elected to the council in 2012 and was often viewed as an outspoken opposition voice.

Former code enforcement officer Maureen Aucoin-Giroux is running to represent the northern Ward 1. Councilor Kate Dufour, a lobbyist for the Maine Municipal Association, said work commitments would have made continuing to serve on the council difficult.

Irish is a downtown Hallowell resident and business owner and said by taking a year off from the council, she’s been able to reassess how to better focus on the issues without getting distracted.

“I have an understanding of the constraints of budgets and differences of opinion about how and where the city should be moving forward,” Irish said last week. She said she wants to be involved in the conversations about the Water Street reconstruction and the redevelopment of Stevens School, and she’s “ready to dive right back in.”

Aucoin-Giroux was the city’s code enforcement officer for about six years, and in March, she was named the interim city manager after the unexpected death of Stefan Pakulski. Aucoin-Giroux was a finalist for the permanent city manager position that ultimately went to Nate Rudy. She has since been hired as an inspector for the Maine Housing Authority.

“I have quite a history with the city, and with all the various hats I’ve worn, I’m quite familiar with all the issues the city is facing,” Aucoin-Giroux said. “There are a lot of decisions to be made, and they are tough decisions. But I think it’s going to be a great council, and I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead.”

Aucoin-Giroux vaguely spoke about the big issues surrounding the Stevens Commons redevelopment and said it should be a collaborative effort.

Longtime councilor Lisa Harvey-McPherson is running unopposed to continue representing Ward 5, which is on the west side of the Maine Turnpike. Harvey-McPherson was first elected to the council in November 2010, and she echoed the other candidates’ views about the challenges facing Hallowell.

There will be two new councilors and one fairly new councilor when the calendar turns to January. In addition to Irish and Aucoin-Giroux, Michael Frett was named to fill the Ward 2 council seat vacated when Sophie Gabrion resigned in September less than a year into her term. Frett will complete Gabrion’s term, which runs through December 2017.

The three candidates vying for the Senate District 14 seat gave brief remarks and answered a question about the city budget at the beginning of the forum. Democrat Shenna Bellows, Republican Bryan Cutchen and Independent Joseph Pietroski are competing to fill the seat of Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, who did not seek re-election.

Bellows, of Manchester, said she’s spent her career in public service and said she’ll build coalitions within the Legislature to get things going. While knocking on doors getting to know voters, Bellows said the overwhelming concern has been rising property taxes, and she wants the state to be more fiscally responsible.

Cutchen, a retired Navy rear admiral from West Gardiner, said he learned while working at the Pentagon how to work with large organizations with large budgets, and he thinks the state can run more efficiently, which would lower the tax burden on Maine’s people.

An independent from Winthrop, Pietroski noted that he’s lived in the district for 45 years and said the state hasn’t adapted to the skills many Mainers could bring to the workforce. He also mentioned senior citizens and was disappointed his two opponents didn’t address that demographic during their opening remarks.

Dawn Gallagher, the wife of Lindley, is running unopposed for re-election to her spot on the Regional School Unit 2 board. Gallagher spoke briefly about the continued reduction of the RSU’s budget and the shortfalls it creates within the district.

The ballot in November also includes a referendum for a new city charter. One of the changes to the charter would stagger the terms of each councilor so that there is less turnover on the council each year.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 


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